"Honored Sister" Kingmaker in India?

"Honored Sister" Kingmaker in India?

As India heads for national elections next spring, opposition parties hoping to topple the powerful Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his ruling BJP party are wooing a controversial politician who has built immense power by representing the powerless.


Mayawati Das, known as Mayawati, is a former chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state. She is also leader of the influential Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), which represents the interests of those known as Dalits, members of low castes in the Hindu system who have suffered discrimination and stigma for hundreds of years. Today, there are at least 200 million Dalits spread across the country, many of whom refer to Mayawati – who grew up in poverty and famously travelled by bicycle to visit poor voters in Uttar Pradesh – as behenji, or “honored sister.”

Dalits, once known as “untouchables,” are an increasingly coveted swing vote, in part because of rising tensions between them and BJP-affiliated Hindu nationalists (whose conservative views explicitly stigmatize Dalits). Dalit herdsmen and leather traders, for example, have suffered numerous attacks by “cow vigilantes,” and earlier this year violent clashes erupted over the 200th anniversary of a colonial-era battle in which Dalits sided with the British against upper-caste Hindus. While Prime Minister Modi’s pledge to expand economic prosperity won him as much as a quarter of the Dalit vote in 2014, that loyalty may now be in question.

For her part, Mayawati is keen to stage a major political comeback. In the 2014 general elections, the BSP won the third highest vote tally but failed to secure a single seat in lower house of the national legislature because it failed to come in first in any individual district. Now, with an eye on 2019, the BSP is building local alliances in more than a dozen states, leaving open the question of whether Mayawati will yet partner with a national party. A tie-up with the Congress Party – which suffered its worst ever defeat in 2014 – could pose a stiff challenge to Mr. Modi and even lead to a deadlocked outcome in which Mayawati has the role of kingmaker in choosing the next prime minister.

Still, even if Mayawati does jump into the mix, the BJP is heading into 2019 in a commanding position. A broadly popular Modi can now boast of governing the fastest growing major economy in the world. What’s more, Mayawati herself is hardly uncontroversial. Despite her humble origins and strong advocacy for India’s poor, she has a personal taste for lavish living and megalomaniacal public works projects (including massive statues of herself) that have prompted accusations of corruption.

The bottom line: As the world’s largest democracy heads for elections next spring, the electoral loyalties of India’s most stigmatized groups could prove decisive. Keep an eye on Mayawati.

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The European Union is, for better or worse, the most ambitious experiment in human history in institutionalized multinational cooperation. Its success depends on the willingness of its members to abide by its rules.

In recent years, the populist-nationalist governments of former Communist bloc members Hungary and Poland have flouted some of those rules in order to boost their own popularity with citizens suspicious of the EU's liberal values on issues like immigration and minority rights. In response, the EU has scolded these "illiberal" governments and threatened forceful action – so far without much effect.

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Watch this episode of GZERO World with Ian Bremmer: Is a robot coming for your job? Kai-fu Lee explains AI

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Matt Masterson made these remarks during a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

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Ginny Badanes spoke at a live Global Stage event, Infodemic: defending democracy from disinformation. Watch the full event here: https://www.gzeromedia.com/global-stage/virtual-events/disinformation-is-a-big-problem-what-can-we-do-about-it

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. In this video, watch Ian Bremmer's conversation with Lebanese journalist and author Kim Ghattas on GZW talking about the future of Lebanese politics and sectarianism in the county after the after the blast. It was originally published on August 19, 2020.

In Lebanon, "a majority (are) united in wanting a different future, a future that is non-sectarian, that is non-corrupt, that provides prosperity, justice, dignity for people," journalist Kim Ghattas told Ian Bremmer on GZERO World.

In this interview, Ghattas discusses the opportunity that could arise from the tragedy of the Beirut explosion which killed 200 and injured thousands more. The Lebanese are "fed up" with the militant group Hezbollah, she tells Bremmer, and want to strive for a government that better resembles the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of its citizens.

Watch the GZERO World episode: Lebanon Post-Blast: Rage in the Streets of Beirut.

Some of the worst sectarian clashes since Lebanon's 15-year civil war (1975-1990) broke out in Beirut this week between supporters of Hezbollah and Amal, both Shiite political parties, and Christian, far-right Lebanese Forces. Shiite protesters were rallying against the state probe into the Beirut port blast, which occurred last year. They say authorities were singling out Shiite politicians for questioning and blame. Below is our original piece on the Beirut port explosions published on August 5, 2020.


The twin explosions at Beirut's port on Tuesday were so powerful that the aftershocks reverberated as far as the Eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, 150 miles away. The specter of fire and smoke was such that many suggested on social media that Beirut had experienced a nuclear blast.

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Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington, shares insights on US politics:

What does it actually mean to cut $1 trillion from the Democrats' $3.5 trillion social spending bill?

President Biden has proposed one of the most ambitious expansions of federal spending in recent memory. If he gets everything he wants, it would probably be the largest expansion of government since the Great Society, but he's not going to get everything he wants. Democrats have basically said they cannot do all $3.5 trillion in spending. They're probably going to end up around $2 trillion. So what gets cut? Well, we don't know yet. There's kind of two ways to go about this. They could either cut the number of programs that have been proposed, doing fewer things with more money on a permanent basis, or they could try to do more things, each program getting less money and potentially doing them on a temporary basis. So, a future Congress would have to extend it. What does this mean for you? Well, a lot of the money in here is designed to go directly to families, either in the form of cash payments, through the tax code, the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit, or subsidies for things like child care, early childhood education, and community college. And if you cut these things back, it means less money is going to go out the door to the American people. It also means less tax increases to finance it. So the implications of what's being proposed could actually end up being a big deal for a lot of Americans who would qualify for benefits under these new programs.

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